I have a lazy eye. It’s no big deal to me after all these years. But when one of my patients asked me about ten years ago if I’d found this ‘handicap’ a detriment in my career, I knew I’d underestimated my affliction. How had I managed to function as an RN with an albatross of a lazy eye? I appreciated this woman’s dilemma. She had a child with a lazy eye, and was deathly afraid her little man would never be able to compete in a world of fully-functioning, energetic eyes.
But amblyopia isn’t simply a cosmetic issue. If one’s eyes are not perfectly aligned, then each one is looking at something different. The brain cannot allow two images coming in and suppresses the weaker one. Vision becomes impaired in the so-called ‘lazy’ eye. (I deplore such discriminatory terminology; regardless of their ability, I love both my eyes equally. ) The fact is that where there’s a lazy eye, there is also impaired vision.
In Grade 2, I had to wear a patch to cover my ‘good’ eye, in the hope that the brain would be fooled. If only one image was being allowed in, then maybe the brain would allow the weaker eye to gain strength. The patch made me feel like I was smothering, possibly because it was cutting off most of my sight. When I wore the thing, I saw through a glass darkly. Imagine looking through a jar of pickles–everything dark, shapeless, and vague. No distinguishable features. I saw people the way Picasso painted them; all jumbled up, unrecognizable. The classroom blackboard held nothing but squiggles for me, reading was impossible. My mother tells me that I became so (uncharacteristically) badly behaved, that my teacher suggested I sit the rest of the year out at home.
Years passed. The patch, a failure, went by the wayside, and glasses, useless to correct the problem, did as well. By this time, my ‘wandering’ eye had begun taking unsupervised trips. I hadn’t realized what was happening until I saw myself in photos; the lazy eye was looking off to the right, while the other one stared straight ahead. Good grief, I was wall-eyed! The image of that photo made me self-conscious and I tried to avoid eye contact with people. I would bob and weave, tilt my head, talk with my eyes closed, blink rapidly, turn in the direction I knew my lazy eye was headed, anything to avoid a direct gaze. It bothered me when people faced me and in confusion, kept looking from one eye to the other, not quite sure which one to address. My blood pressure went up, and I knew something had to be done. All my tricks had failed.
Then I discovered that surgery could correct the straying eye. It was like the dawn breaking. The fact that it wouldn’t make my lazy eye see any better was irrelevant by now; I had learned to live with my limited sight. My overwhelming need at this point was to reign in that pesky rebellious eye, which kept refusing to go wherever the good eye went. (Again we’re name-calling; how can we be sure that my so-called ‘good’ eye has never had a rebellious moment ?) At any rate, I had the surgery. My eyes, once estranged from each other, became best friends, going everywhere together. Only a person with this particular affliction understands that joy…
…Flash forward to the present… Lately, I’ve begun to notice that my recalcitrant eye has taken to sneaking off at times. I may have to go under the knife again; a small price to pay to have both eyes considered equal. So what if I can’t see 3-D movies, or play tennis because I can’t judge the distance of the ball? We all have our limits. They needn’t define us. It’s enough for me to know that in the eternal scheme of things, it’s all part of a higher purpose. It’s enough to know that one day I’ll understand the whys and wherefores of this life; that regardless of my drawbacks, I’m valued by my Maker. After all, if I can love my weak and wandering eye as much as the strong one, don’t you think the perfect Father can love all His children equally, regardless of their failings?
In the meantime, the option of surgery remains open…